In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Close Up”, I decided to go back to a close encounter from Africa. This little cat (full grown female Cheetah) is staring down at us through the top window of our safari vehicle. I had my smallest lens on and it was still almost too close to focus. She was a perfect companion and made no threatening gestures at all as she spent about 10 minutes on our roof surveying the countryside for prey……
Here’s my photo for this week’s challenge: “Shadowed.” This cheetah was examining a tree in the Serengeti and it cast just enough shadows to make this a dramatic photo which highlighted the incredible eyes of this svelte predator. Of all the cheetah photos we took during our trip a year ago, this may be my favorite……
I’ve already “let the cat” out of the proverbial “bag” in previous posts but we spent some incredible time with numerous Cheetahs while in Tanzania. As we were setting up our trip I had told our guide Ethan (http://www.ethan-kinsey.com) that we had not seen a cheetah in the wild on our previous african trips and hoped that we would find some on this trip. On our second day, there we were out in the prairie with all kinds of animals around when Ethan looked down in a valley to the left and said “hmmm…. there isn’t any animals down there – I wonder why….?” Off we went to see what was happening and we were rewarded with an introduction to a female cheetah and her young offspring. They were on a worn down termite mound and were harassing a large (about 5′ long) Monitor lizard who was protecting her eggs. After a while, they wandered away with us following them pretty closely. They finally found a tree to relax under and we shared the shade with them as they took their nap. As they started to stir, the daughter started exploring the nearby surroundings and gave us some good photo ops . This photo gives you a good look at the sleek body and also the claws – which are not retractable like other cats. The reason for that is that the Cheetahs use them as “spikes” (like on track shoes) to gain traction during their hunting sprints.
We eventually left them for a little while but returned to find them near a bushy area where they had found a gazelle. We sat nearby as they completely devoured the small animal. While it wasn’t really pleasant to watch, it was fascinating to share their mealtime in close quarters as they kept scanning the plains for potential danger – the Cheetah are not at all aggressive and would abandon their prey at the first sight of any other predator. Here’s a photo of Mom before she cleaned up from the meal.
We actually saw this same pair of cheetahs several times and spent some nice time with them – including our first “boarding” of our safari vehicle by the young one that I discussed in my post https://scottseyephotos.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/weekly-photo-challenge-object/.
I don’t think that I’ve mentioned that we had that same experience two more times during our trip. I’ve never posted a video before but our friend Mike took this one of a different female a few days later – I think it does a real nice job of showing you what that experience was like. First she jumped on the hood, then up on the roof (and yes the roof hatches were all open) with nothing between her and us. She finally jumped down as she was startled when her tail hit the radio antenna! I hope you enjoy….we sure did (and do – every time we look at the photos and videos). Also – suggest you show it full screen to get the maximum effect….
Once again, I thought I’d try to show a little different take on the subject of the Challenge. In this photo there is little doubt where the focal point of the story is……the Cheetah of course! But of equal interest is the fact that it is sitting on our safari vehicle observing us like we were in a miniature zoo. We all knew that it was a special moment by the fact that our wonderful guide ( who had never had this happen before) kept lowly muttering ” there’s a cheetah on my truck…..there’s a cheetah on MY truck”
So the truck is also part of the object….but I also think that the fact that the cheetah was thinking WE were the object is interesting….but she didn’t have a camera.
I was on my way out of the San Diego Safari Park and I came across the last moments of a “meet the animals” encounter where the trainers had a young cheetah “on display” up close and personal to the crowd. I came around a corner and just got off one shot at the very end of the encounter. When I got home I did a quick crop on the photo because part of the Cheetah was masked by the handler and I looked at the resulting close-up. As luck sometimes happens, I unintentionally caught pretty good images of the trainer directly in the dark pupils of the “trainee”. Sometimes its amazing what you can capture with a quick candid shot!
I had the pleasure earlier this week to go out and visit the San Diego Wild Animal Park – part of the incredible San Diego Zoo. While I have been to the zoo numerous times over the years (we live only a few blocks away), I had only been to the Park once – many years ago. It is a great place to visit and see many species in something approaching their native habitat. One attraction I was unaware of is the afternoon Cheetah run. They have a 110 yard long Cheetah track (100 yd run and 10 yds to stop) where they demonstrate the Cheetahs incredible acceleration and speed to the crowd. The lure him down the track with his favorite toy dragged in front of him and with the promise of a great meal at the end of the run. It was also interesting that they had a big shaggy white dog, who is paired with the Cheetah as a “pal”, do the run first so that the Cheetah would know that it was alright to do it. In any case, it was FAST! I got several shots during the run but I liked this one best because it really was flying.
If you ever get out this way, this is something worth seeing. And OBTW – it really does accelerate faster than a Corvette – zero to sixty in 3+ seconds!! (versus 4+ for the 400 horsepower sportscar)